After chasing my lost youth via the delicious medium of avocado toast (millennials know what's what!) yesterday, I wandered homeward along Buffalo Bayou. It's a couple of crow-flown miles, but I managed to stretch it to twice that long by following the curves of the bayou and by finding art and nature to explore as I went.
And because I discovered the once well-worn paths I was on were closed still due to flooding. If you remember much about Hurricane Harvey's hit to Houston in August, you'll remember that the bayous, especially the city's principal one, Buffalo Bayou, overran their banks for days and weeks. Although the water long since receded, many of the paths are still covered in debris, and there are areas waterlogged because of all the shifting soil. The dog parks close to the restaurant where I ate my toast are still buried. A couple of the pups I passed gave me looks that clearly read, "we're supposed to be able to go off leash around here, you know."
I know, puppers. I know.
The art along Buffalo Bayou Park has survived, and it was nice to get up close to much of it as I walked through the gray and brown and green landscape. The Wortham Fountain - or The Dandelion as I always called it growing up - is fun to circle, even on a day too chilly to get close enough to be hit by the spray. And the Tolerance statues (the bodies are constructed of alphabets from around the world) are great to explore up close, instead of my usual glimpses of their large graceful forms as I drive past.
Once I reached Glenwood Cemetery, I ducked in through a side gate to look around. I've lived near it for about 18 months now, but have never really explored it, other than glancing in while walking by the bayou. Turns out Gene Tierney is buried there, and Howard Hughes, and so many well-known figures from Houston's arts, business, and governmental history. Plus, it's super-pretty. I'll be heading back to explore more deeply when the weather gets a tad friendlier.
Yesterday, I just headed up Sawyer Street to home. I always enjoy the street art in this part of the city. I often get stopped at train tracks here, and get to contemplate the colors and patterns, but walking beside it and realizing the scale and vision of the creators is even better.
I hope you've had decent enough weather to explore some beauty around you lately, too! And if you can't get outside, may I recommend you settle in at home with a nice plate of avocado toast?
A YEAR AGO TODAY, i saw hamilton on broadway
How did I get Hamilton tickets?
That's everyone's first question. (Always with quite textual subtext. I get it.)
I spent hours coordinating dates for my family (why do the kids have to grow up and take summer internships when I want to go to Broadway?), and more hours on sites that reviewed various seats at the Richard Rodgers Theatre and, most of all, hours on the ticketing site looking for non-resale seats that dovetailed all those things into 3 seats together in the middle of row L and 1 seat way up front. (Getting 4 together was a non-starter.)
I bought them in early November for the end of June show.
Life intervened, despite all of my planning, and my husband needed to be in Ireland with his mum during June, so my Hamilton-loving niece joined us for summer in the city.
Was it amazing?
Completely. For the first half, I sat in the front row (note: not the actual front row, but the first of the rows they sell tickets for - i.e., the second row) and I turned into a bolt of pure lightness and electricity the moment Leslie Odom, Jr. came out, stood like eight feet from me, and began singing.
("Singing" seems like the weakest of words to describe his performance.)
Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda kept making eye contact with me.
WITH ME! It was intense. And delightful. And giddy-making.
I know, probably I was imagining it. BUT, a friend of my kid's and his family were sitting two rows behind me, and they said I wasn't.
Also (I maybe mention this a lot), he retweeted me after the show and said that my son (who sat in the up front seat for the second half) and I were awesome. Excuse me, "so awesome."
The view from Row L was also amazing. The whole stage was a glittering kaleidoscope of power and motion and light and such gorgeous, gorgeous sound.
My niece didn't leave her seat at intermission or after the show until she'd finished journaling. Meanwhile, my younger son - the one who split the front row with me - waited at the pit and got a signature on his songbook from Alex Lacamoire. (Both sons were Hamilfans, but the younger, who is a budding composer, was the greater, so the seat split went to him.) The four of us floated out of the theatre and into the Greatest City in the World.
At any rate, to celebrate that amazing night, and also because it's very much in line with everything I want the world be, I donated today to Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest Prizeo campaign (benefitting the Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition), and made an embarrassingly inept speech as I screened an adaption of the Hamilton song "Dear Theodosia" the sons performed for my Mother's Day gift last year.
You should donate!
IRISH SODA BREAD
2 1/4 - 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats & a bit more to sprinkle on top
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
(optional: 1 cup raisins or currants, rinsed in hot water & patted dry)
2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten lightly
Into a large bowl, sift together 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the whole-wheat flour and 1 cup oats, plus caraway seeds and raisins. Add the buttermilk and egg and stir the mixture until it forms a dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it, adding in as much of the remaining 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour as necessary to form a manageable but sticky dough.
Halve the dough, form the halves into round loaves, and put them on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the loaves lightly with additional oats, dust them with flour, and bake in the middle of a preheated 350° oven for 30-35 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.
Cool on a rack before eating. I mean it! Cool first, then eat! (Add Irish butter, lashing of jam, smoked salmon, or other toppings as desired.)
In 5th grade, I realized I was a writer.
I know it was 5th grade, because in 5th grade I had Penny Heap, World's Best Teacher, and she told me I was a good writer. And I vowed to make her proud, because there was nothing better in the world than pleasing Mrs. Heap. (Her name was Penny! She drove a silver sports car! She moved me so I didn't have to sit by the mean girls!)
So I threw myself into my new craft, and a couple of Super Awesome Validating Things happened to set I Will Be A Writer When I Grow Up firmly into the concrete of ... my soul? (That metaphor got away from me a bit.)
First, one of my poems was picked to go in the "Creative Writing" section of my elementary school newsletter. Okay, yes, it was more a rip-off than an homage to Clement Clarke Moore, but let's give eleven-year-old me a break, shall we? I was a PUBLISHED AUTHOR.
And then! Encouraged by the glittering success of my first publication, I went on to submit what I seem to recall were at least four poems (all heavily influenced by Shel Silverstein) to my beloved local library - and I won!
FIRST PLACE, BABY. That's right. I'm now an AWARD WINNING AUTHOR. With MULTIPLE PUBLICATIONS:
(In case y'all can't tell, I've been cleaning out some old paperwork lately. I also found the program from the terrible play my husband and I attended on our first date, my 9th grade report card - ouch, though it did make my current 9th grader feel better about his own performance - and a postcard Salman Rushdie sent to my graduate thesis advisor.)
With early encouragement - and, let's face it, raw talent - like this, is it any wonder I am sitting on my sofa in my jammies today, a Real Author?
As my RETREAT TO LOVE Pinterest board makes abundantly clear (as does the book itself, I suspect!), I think quilting is fabulous.
But I'm not especially talented.
Kind of a good thing, really, because quilting takes a ton of time, and if I was better I'd want to spend alllllllllllllll my time hunched over my sewing machine instead of hunched over a keyboard.
(I have poor posture.)
Regardless, I try periodically to put together a quilt that does me credit, and no matter how approximate my corners, I love the process.
I've written about some of the work I've done on my general books / life blog, and wanted to link to it here so y'all could check out my creations. But remember, Ashlyn in RETREAT TO LOVE is a far, far more talented artist than I could ever hope to be.
Where are you from?
My teen's just been contemplating identity (it's possible he's also delaying his bedtime....) He's a bit of a mix. His dad's from Ireland, I'm from America, and on top of being Texan for seven generations on one side (hi, Mom!) I'm also a first-generation American & Jewish on the other (hi, Dad!)
I've noticed our tendency to define ourselves by the ways we are unlike others. To look at me, I'm fairly indecipherable from any other white woman in the city. So I proclaim my deep roots in the state, my cultural heritage, my imported husband. (He lost the charming accent when he moved here. I have to paint shamrocks on his cheek for people to know he's Irish.)
When my teen was outlining those same differences, we talked about how he would define himself if we lived in Dublin. Suddenly the being half-Irish side of him is less defining than the being half-American side of him. Even as we go through life seeking commonalities (we both have teenage sons! we both love Kristan Higgins books! we both want a margarita right now!), we define ourselves by our individuality.
Ultimately, my life wouldn't be substantially different if my ancestors were from Kansas instead of Texas, or Italy instead of Poland. I would still love margaritas and contemporary romance. So would you.
But I still enjoy hearing about those things from the past that identify you in the present.
So: where are you from?
Writing is a journey undertaken by the mind in conjunction with the soul....